Rain, cold and hours of waiting didn't matter anymore when the new pope finally stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. For the faithful, the choice was a surprise, but didn't stop them from celebrating.
After the "Habemus Papam," everyone was waiting for the name of the cardinal the conclave had picked. When the name Bergoglio was announced, however, confusion spread through St. Peter's Square. "Who is that? Did anybody get the name?" many people asked.
Only a couple of minutes later did it trickle down that an Argentinian was the new pope. The candidate had not really been on anyone's radar, so as the news spread, people whipped out their iPads and smartphones to google the new guy. What they learned: Bergoglio is the 76-year-old son of Italian immigrants and the first Jesuit on the chair of Saint Peter. Soon, the first "Francesco, Francesco"- chants could be heard- the Italian version of Francis, the name the new pope adopted.
The dark-red velvet curtains on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica only moved a couple of minutes later.
Dressed in all-white, the new pope stepped up to the balustrade, hesitated for a moment when he saw the masses at his feet and said in Italian: "Brothers and sisters! Good evening! It seems that my brother Cardinals have come from the ends of the Earth to get their new bishop of Rome." People are laughing, the ice has been broken. There are loud cheers as the new pope speaks about brotherhood and love on a new path for he church.
Speechless with excitement
A small gathering of Argentinians that had been waiting close to the ballustrade at the bottom of the stairs to St. Peter's Basilica are besides themselves with joy. "I don't know the pope personally, but he is such a good man," one woman from Buenos Aires gushes into the numerous TV cameras surrounding her. Emanuel Sargari from Santa Fe, Argentina, is jumping up and down like a bouncing ball, together with his friends. "He wasn't a favorite. I can't even talk, that's how excited I am!" In all the commotion, Emanuel forgets to wave the large Argentine flag he has brought along for this very moment. "It's a really big surprise. And now we're off to party."
Humble head shepherd
The new pope seems to be a little less enthusiastic. He's only waving a little, and seems to be a bit unsure about the order in which to do things. But he does succeed in silencing the crowds. Ten of thousands follow his call to quietly pray for a moment. The chants silence. The people bow their heads. Then, Francis blesses Rome and the world for the first time. The pope hesitates after that, turns around to leave, but then decides to come back. He asks for the portable microphone again, which doesn't work right away. When it finally does, he says, "Thank you for your welcome. Good night!"
Many Italians in St. Peter's Square are a little disappointed that their candidate, Cardinal Angelo Scola from Milan, hasn't been chosen. "Well, at least this one has Italian ancestors," an elderly lady says. Her husband says with a smile that things could have turned out a lot worse: "Imagine if they had chosen Berlusconi!"
"Francis"- a telling name?
Robert Shay, an American studying to be a priest, is satisfied with the relatively quick selection after just five rounds of balloting. "I think everyone here was surprised. Everyone had someone on their list. But this is fantastic. Francis is a great name. All of us are very excited."
Saint Francis preached poverty for the church. That choice of name by Jorge Mario Bergoglio could point his papacy in a certain direction, Shay thinks, standing in St. Peter's Square. "He's a simple man, he takes the bus to work. He's very humble. Maybe he's going to bring some of that to his papacy. With the name Francis, maybe he wants to bring a certain simplicity to the church. But it's too early to tell."
After the announcement in St. Peter's Square, the 114 cardinals and the pope had dinner together, before Francis moved into the apostolic palace. How each cardinal voted will likely never be revealed. The cardinals took a holy oath to keep this secret.
"Renew the church"
German pope fans are still a little sad that Benedict XVI stepped down. Heinz Sander traveled to Rome from Traunstein in Bavaria. Being there when Benedict's successor was chosen has been a moving experience for him. "It's a marvelous and splendid feeling, because we had originally booked the trip for a general audience with Pope Benedict. Well, now we have the possibility and good fortune to experience the choice of a new pope live, right here," Heinz Sander says. But who that new pope up on the balcony really is, and what to expect from him, that's not really clear to the Bavarian Catholic.
Anne Grotewend from Greifswald in Northern Germany, however, has very clear expectations. "He needs to approach Protestants and women, and he needs to renew and modernize the church," Grotewend, who is Protestant and very involved with her church at home, thinks. She wouldn't have missed the spectacle in St. Peter's Square for the world. "I want to see the new representative of Jesus on earth. For that, I would have also come here ten days in a row." That wasn't necessary. The conclave was over in one and a half days.